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NHL - The Early Years


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In 1917, the NHA decided to suspend operations in order to get rid of Eddie Livingstone, an unwanted owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. In order to allow their teams to continue to play in the meantime, they formed a new league as a "temporary measure". This new league was known as the National Hockey League..and the rest is history!

  • In 1917, the NHA (National Hockey Association) decided to suspend operations in order to get rid of an unwanted owner of the Toronto Blueshirts, Eddie Livingstone. The remaining NHA team owners started a new league, "the NHL" as a temporary measure, so their teams could continue play while negotiations went on with Livingstone. When the team owners finally decided that no progress was being made with Livingstone, they decided to permanently suspend the NHA and forge on with the new league..and this was the birth of the NHL.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs organization was founded in 1917-1918 when a group of NHA owners decided to form the National Hockey League in order to shut out the much resented Eddie Livingstone owner of the Toronto Blue Shirts. The team was renamed the Toronto Arenas and went on to win the cup their first year.
  • The long storied history of the NHL battles began December 19, 1917 as the Montreal Wanderers defeated the Toronto Arenas, 10-9, and the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators, 7-4.
  • Due to a major Spanish flu epidemic at the time, the Stanley Cup finals were cancelled in 1919. The flu had already killed Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall and the league didnt want to risk any more players getting sick.
  • In the season of 1919/20 the Toronto Arenas were rescued from bankruptcy and the team was renamed the St. Patricks in honor of Torontos growing Irish Population. The Toronto team received a new look as well changing their colors to green and white.
  • On January 31, 1920 Phantom Joe Malone scored seven goals for the Quebec Bulldogs, leading his team to a 10-6 victory over the Toronto St. Patricks. That set an NHL record that still stands today, though seven people have came close since then scoring 6 in a game.
  • 1923 was the year the legendary Foster Hewitt called the games first radio broadcast, an intermediate game between teams from Kitchener and Toronto. He was an immediate hit and before long he hit the big leagues. Fans across the nation became glued to their radio every Saturday night to catch Hewitts vivid play-by-play commentary. Hewitt had became a legend, more popular than the players in the game he called..and by the 1940s he was the number one most famous person in Canada, more famous than the prime minister of Canada himself.
  • October 11, 1924 the Boston Bruins were granted the first American franchise to join the NHL, a sport that was considered to be at that time a Canadian game with very little adoption to the American public.
  • In 1924 the Montreal Forum was opened, the first big league arena built with with the sole purpose of hosting hockey games. The arena was built for the new Montreal Maroons - the team representing English Montreal. The Maroons featured the biggest name in hockey in that day, Howie Morenz. Howie was to hockey what Babe Ruth was to baseball, and as part of the famous Flying Frenchmen line they lit up the ice and caught the attention of many new hockey fans, both in English speaking Canada and certain key markets across the border in America.
  • After being granted the franchise in 1924, one of the first moves Boston Bruins owner Charles Adams made was to hire Art Ross, a former star player and innovator, as general manager. Ross would be the face of the franchise for thirty years, including four separate stints as coach.
  • After playing an incredible 16 seasons in a row for the Montreal Canadiens (7 in the NHA, 9 in the NHL) without missing a single game, November 28, 1925 Georges Vezina fell to to the ice, short of breath and blood rolling from his mouth. This marked the end of a remarkable career in which he led the league with the lowest GAA average 7 times. Just a few months later, tuberculosis took George Vezinas life. When the Hockey Hall of Fame opened in 1945, Vézina (aka "the Chicoutimi Cucumber") was one of the original twelve inductees.
  • After seeing how successful hockey took off in Boston it was time for New York to get in the game. In 1925-26 the New York Americans and Pittsurgh Pirates (yes, the hockey team:) joined the NHL. The Americans first game in the NHL was played in none other than Madison Square Gardens (which was rented for the evening) before a sell-out crowd of 17,442.
  • The latter half of the twenties saw some major market arenas being built with Madison Square Gardens in 1925, the Detroit Olympia in 1927, Boston Gardens in 1928 and the Chicago Stadium in 1929.
  • After the owner of Madison Square Gardens (who was primarily a boxing promoter) saw how popular this game of hockey was going to be, he decided he wanted his own franchise and the following season Texs Rangers played their first game in the NHL. For many people attending Rangers games in those days it was more than just a hockey game, these events on the Broadway strip were a social event that brought out New Yorks most elite, the women dressed in fancy dresses and the men in their finest suits and top hats.
  • In 1926, the Western Hockey League disbands and sells most of its players to the NHL, leaving the NHL as the undisputed top hockey league in North America.
  • 1926 also saw the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Cougars (who later became the Detroit Red Wings) join the NHL.
  • During the 1927-28 season George Hainsworth led the league in goaltending posting an amazing 22 shutouts a record that still stands today. That season Hainsworth became the very first recipient of the Vezina trophy which was in honour of his predecessor. The following season the NHL made a rule change allowing forward passes, resulting in a major increase in scoring and far fewer shut-outs.
  • 1927: NHL institutes rule that allows only team captains to address referees.
  • In 1927 Conn Smythe arrived in Toronto with a debt to settle againt the Rangers. The previous season Smythe had been hired by the Rangers to build a championship team from scratch, and so he did. Unfortunately for him, he wasnt going to be there to see them win it because the Rangers fired him before their first game. Smythes mission was to build a team in Toronto that was better than the team he built in New York but only one problem, he was a little short on cash. So Conn Smythe took the $10,000 fee he had earned from the Rangers and bet it on a University of Toronto football game. He then took his winnings from that bet and let it all ride on a Toronto St Patricks hockey game. The Pats won and Smythe now had the $165,000 he needed to buy the St Patricks franchise.
  • During the 1928 finals, Lester Patrick the coach of the New York Rangers - at the age of 44 - strapped on the goaltending gear to replace his injured goalie, and led his team to victory...setting them on their way to become the first American NHL team to win the Stanley Cup.
  • It wasnt until 1929 that the NHL rules allowed forward passing in the offensive zone, before that point forward passing was only allowed in the defensive end. It was also that year that the offside rule was instituted in the NHL.
  • Maple Leafs Gardens became the first arena to host a 4 sides game clock in 1932.
  • Though during the roaring twenties the Ottawa Senators were one of the hottest team in the NHL winning the Stanley Cup four times by 1934 they could no longer compete with the ever expanding american markets and moved across the border to become the St. Lous Eagles.
  • 1934: The Great Depression forces the maximum team bulk payroll to drop from $70,000 to $62,500.
  • The early 30s were rough for the Habs and by 1935/1936 they had the worst record in the league. Stunned by such a horrible performance the NHL gave Montreal the rights to all French Canadian players for two years. The following season they had the 2nd best record in the league.
  • 1936: The longest game in NHL history took place on March 24, 1936, during a playoff game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. The teams battled through 116 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime. Rookie Moderre Mud Bruneteau would score in the 6th overtime period to win the game at 2:25 am.
  • 1940: Spalding becomes the puck of choice for the NHL.

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